The show must go on

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With Christmas only days away, Charlotte-based Southern Shows Inc. announced that it sold six of its 18 events to Ohio-based Marketplace Events, including a holiday tradition for many North Carolinians: the Southern Christmas Show (“Glitter galore,” December). Now, the family behind the show talks about the bittersweet decision to pass the reins.

Southern Christmas ShowChris Keane


David ZimmermanSouthern Shows Inc.

David Zimmerman

Joan ZimmermanSouthern Shows Inc.

Joan Zimmerman

Fifty years ago, not long before Christmas, traveling between High Point and Charlotte, I said to my husband, Robert, “There are so many great church bazaars and holiday fetes, I just can’t get to all of them. We need to gather them under one roof for one gigantic bazaar.”

Robert, ever the big and visionary thinker responded, “Yes, and we could add special features and Santa Claus and Christmas trees ….” By the time we got home, we had the Southern Christmas Show planned — in our heads at least — and we produced our first Southern Christmas Show the next year, 1967.

That first year, the show was filled mostly with church bazaars. Our big feature was a Thanksgiving Day Parade float decorated to the hilt with a red velvet-draped pedestal atop which was the heavily promoted “world’s largest fake diamond.” The show did not completely fill Independence Hall [now the Park Expo and Conference Center], it was three days and attendance was around 10,000. The important thing is, people loved it. It has now grown to fill 250,000 square feet with 100,000-plus attendance over the 12 show days.

Our son, David, is now the Chief Santa and has taken the show to brilliant new heights. In other words, without realizing it, we created a tradition for our family and many more. We now have three generations who have grown up with the Southern Christmas Show. So, yes, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the show that has so many memories for us and so many others.

The reaction from friends and family, upon hearing the news, has been heart-warming. My sister Kathleen, who lives in England but has visited the show many times, said, “I cannot believe it. It’s like hearing Buckingham Palace has been sold.” Others took time to share their memories of the show with many mothers and grandmothers recalling their first visit, when they were youngsters.

We are sad, proud, thankful and optimistic. Marketplace Events has a reputation for excellence and for caring.
Marketplace has been interested in the home shows and Southern Spring Home & Garden Show for quite some time — they have cornered the national home shows market and recently entered the holiday show arena, which made the Southern Christmas Show appealing to them. We trusted them sufficiently to handle this special show with care, and after a lot of careful thought (and, yes, anguish) on our part, Southern Shows and Marketplace came to an amicable arrangement.

Our friends will probably spot members of the Zimmerman family at the show – but this time we’ll be carrying a shopping bag instead of a radio. If we don’t see you – our deepest gratitude for supporting the Southern Christmas Show, for making it so special, and for allowing us the privilege of sharing this special season with you.

Fifty years ago, I wrote the lyrics for our show song. In signing off, here they are:

Cakes and cookies,
Toys and gifts,
Christmas at your fingertips,
New ideas to get you on your way,
To a happy holiday …
Smiling faces, catching the spirit …
It’s so much fun, just to be here …
It’s the Southern Christmas Show …
Let’s go – to the Southern Christmas Show.

— Joan Zimmerman, CEO, Southern Shows Inc.


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